It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war. It is a statement that appears to apply to any and all kinds of wars, just as it applies to the political battle between the AYAR Movement and the unions on one side and the government on the other.
It has been almost a year since President Park Geun-hye assumed the presidency after making repeated promises of “economic democratization.” Considering the past year of her presidency, one can make one of the following deductions:
- She made only the most superficial of policy changes without actually transforming the Korean economy into a welfare economy.
- She genuinely believes in “economic democratization” but gave up on it due to strong opposition and/or having an insufficient budget to pay for an increase in welfare programs and/or benefits.
- She never intended to transform the economy into a welfare economy – she lied to get elected and has chosen to return to her original stances on issues now that she no longer has to worry about any more future elections.
As an advocate of laissez-faire capitalism, I am somewhat relieved that President Park has not decided to pursue greater welfare policies and has continued to seek more free trade deals with other nations around the world. (That being said, I would be much happier if I saw a reversal of a great many governmental programs that are currently in existence.)
However, both President Park and the ruling Saenuri Party are receiving the ire of the people, particularly young people, because they either broke their promises or they lied from the get-go.
If what we are seeing today is a result of the government’s inability to meet the president’s as well as Saenuri lawmakers’ campaign promises due to political or economic realities, then though morally forgivable, in the next election, they deserve to be voted out of office so that others can be given the opportunity to see through their vision. All the good intention in the world is nothing more than a poor excuse in the face of incompetence.
On the other hand, if what we are seeing today is the result of their deliberately lying to the people for no other purpose than to ensure electoral victory, which appears more likely, in the next election, they deserve to be trounced thoroughly. There are enough charlatans and power-lusters in the world as it is. The world will not miss them when they are chucked out.
The Park administration is on the receiving end of the AYAR Movement’s ire because the Park administration, as well as the Saenuri leadership, utterly failed to communicate their ideas to the people.
They could have expressed to the people early on that economic realities cannot permit the kinds of sweeping welfare reforms that people want; that they can attempt to make only minor changes. They could have treated the voters as adults and warned them that anyone who promises to give them one government subsidy after tax benefit were liars. Instead, they chose to engage in demagoguery.
If they are indeed defenders of the free market (a laughable idea), then they should have defended their own principles. Being power-lusters, however, they instead chose to deny and contradict, all the while claiming that it was the pragmatic and the grown-up thing to do, until they had nothing left to betray. How do they expect anyone to believe a word they have to say when they have never known a single moment of principled permanence?
What the Park administration and the Saenuri Party are facing can only be described as a crisis of no confidence. Even if they had done none of the above, the Park administration could have bought itself some trust by having actively engaged in the National Intelligence Service (NIS) scandal.
Much like the emperors of old, however, President Park chose to remain aloof in an attempt to most likely appear above petty politics. In all the sound and fury that are surrounding the NIS’ attempt to manufacture public opinion before last year’s presidential election, there has not been a single shred of evidence to suggest that President Park had been directly involved in any NIS-led conspiracy to meddle in the elections.
Having won the election, whether the NIS’ manufacturing of public opinion had any real effect on her electoral victory or not, it should not have come as any surprise that people would claim that she benefited from the NIS’ actions.
President Park should have done the right thing from the very beginning by firing the NIS Director, reaching out to the opposition party to launch a very public bipartisan special investigation into the matter, arrest every single person involved in the actions, and disavow any and all illegal activities.
Even if she had done all that, the rest of the year would not have been smooth sailing. Not by a long shot. The progressives in the National Assembly would have still continued to throw as many stumbling blocks across the president’s path as often as they could have. But the important thing is that she could have begun her presidency on the right foot. She could have retained at least some credibility with the people.
Now, however, with everything that had been said and done, the government appears aloof and, above all else, illegitimate while President Park appears as though she has something to hide.
And now the government has the audacity to claim that they are arresting public union leaders who held the public hostage for the sake of the public. The government lost the public’s trust a long time ago and now has the added benefit of being accused of following in the footsteps of President Park Chung-hee's anti-democratic and anti-union thuggery. Furthermore, the government is borrowing a page from none other than Richard Nixon’s idea of the “great silent majority.” They are operating on the premise that because there is a large sector of the population that is not protesting with the union workers or with the students behind the AYAR Movement, that somehow, they are standing up for the “real” Korean people.
And the gullible right-wing voters are only too happy to side with the government believing that it is fighting for market efficiency for the sake of the “common good” and against the “subversive outside forces.”
It would be comical if the whole thing wasn’t so damned tragic.
(In my earlier entry, I implied that I was going to talk about the false narrative of the People and the Police State. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to talk about the unions’ and the AYAR Movement’s anything-but-heroic role in all this. I will talk about that in the next installment.)